Forever Is A Long Time

“And we will be with the Lord forever.”
1 Thessalonians 4:17 (NIV)

As a 7-8 year old, I recall a bright summer’s day lying on my back on the grass and looking up at the sky. As I lay there I was trying to work back through time and not able to get back past my grandfather. He was the oldest person I knew. Even with that short move back to the late eighteen hundreds, I had a fear in my heart of the concept of eternity. How could anyone, or anything exist forever?

Most people I know have a healthy fear of dying, especially those who do not have a firm notion of what lies on the other side of death. Ministering to dying Christians I have witnessed a serenity I have not seen when attending those who have no hope. On the one hand I saw not only acceptance of death but a sense of welcoming the transition from here to heaven. On the other hand, I have seen fear seize the minds of some dying people as they felt the end coming.

It has been a privilege to encourage a dying believer to look for the angels to come and escort them to heaven. Sadly, my words to those who were not Christians was a call to turn from sin and believe in the friend of sinners (Matt. 11:19). I always have a sense of urgency with such individuals. I assure them that the God they ignored in life is ready, willing, and able to take them to heaven if they turn to Him with their whole hearts and believe Jesus not only died for sinners but also rose from the dead.

This phrase “forever with the Lord” is full of hope and comfort. It brings peace to the troubled heart, to the one who knows they will soon leave this broken, shattered world for the glories of their Father’s home in a place prepared just for them. Some are even eager to get going, to take this last step in their faith journey to their eternal home.

Reader, do you have this hope? Can you say, “For me, absence from the body is to be present with the Lord!” Why are you distressed by the thought of death? Are you not prepared to die?

Many years ago, a Welshman was offered the bread at the Easter communion service but drew back from the minister. “What troubles you?” the minister asked. “I am not fit to receive it.” the man answered. Wisely the minister responded, “If you are not fit to receive the communion you are not fit to live. Moreover, you are certainly not fit to die.” This hope is offered to all who will receive it.

Will you confess Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that He rose from the dead? Do so and you will be saved now and will be forever with the Lord. Come and come now.

Not There Yet

“Not that I have already obtained all this,
or have already arrived at my goal,
but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind
and straining toward what is ahead,
I press on toward the goal to win the prize
for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)

Years ago I recall a church getting caught up in a movement where some of the saints claimed to be living the fully surrendered life. It sounded extraordinary for sure. I knew that Jesus was the only person in history who could say,

“The one who sent me is with me;
he has not left me alone,
for I always do what pleases him.”
John 8:29 (NIV).

Read Philippians and especially chapter 3 where Paul spoke of his own walk with the Lord. He said he had not arrived at his goal, had not taken hold of the goal and was pressing on to gain the prize. In other words, he was not there yet.

I was greatly encouraged by Paul’s comments on his current status as a Christian. If the man who wrote more of the New Testament than any other author, pioneered Christian missionary work, discipled preachers, defended the faith, and was martyred for the Gospel, felt he needed to improve on his Christian accomplishments, then I was in good company.

Perhaps you look back on your years as a believer and think you have not grown enough in grace, not won people to faith in Christ and not helped fellow Christians in their walk. There is hope for you going forward. Always keep in mind,

“You can’t go back and change the beginning,
but you can start where you are and change the ending.”
C.S. Lewis.

Satan will use all of his diabolical skills to remind you of past failures in order to discourage and demoralize you. Stop digging up past failures you have already dealt with and look forward to a bright future of obedience and honour for your beloved Lord and Saviour.

If you have been spinning your wheels, sit down and reaffirm your gifts and opportunities for service. Map out an action plan that is not too ambitious but rather has excellent potential to prosper and get going. Plan your work and then work your plan.

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord,
‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.’”
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Your Father in heaven waits to bless and affirm you giving you new opportunities to be useful for His glory. Come to Him and come now.

Victory Through Suffering

“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,
that what has happened to me
has actually served to advance the gospel.
As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard
and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.
And because of my chains,
most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord
and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.”
Philippians 1:12-14 (NIV)

We have been reflecting on the suffering of the apostle Paul as he is in chains as a Roman prisoner. Instead of focusing his efforts on getting out of the life threatening situation, he reviews with his readers the wonderful benefits that have come from his ordeal.

What he says in the verses for today is that there is a further entrance of the Gospel to the whole guard to whom he is chained. Paul sees victory through suffering. As F. Langbridge said:

Two men look out through the same bars:
One sees the mud, and the other stars.

Both people are in the same cell and while one chooses to focus on the difficulties of his imprisonment the other look up to the beautiful stars and is reminded of his Creator and His power and wisdom.

If the Lord cannot be exalted in the midst of your suffering then you need to pray for its removal. However, be careful about what you ask for. You may be wishing to be removed from the place of immense influence for the Lord. Think again of how you may be used right where you are. Ask yourself, “Who can be brought to Jesus by watching how I handle my problems?”

Often the Lord places a child of His in the hospital in order to bring the Gospel to some person in great need of the Saviour. A dear friend of mine who struggled greatly with poor health was admitted to the hospital again and again. During every admission and time in hospital, my friend found people to whom he could tell the Good News.

Look out for the reason why you suffer today and buy up the opportunities right where you are to exalt Jesus. He is waiting to use you and give you the victory through suffering.

What Do You Want?

“And this is my prayer: that your love
may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,
so that you may be able to discern what is best
and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ
—to the glory and praise of God.”
Philippians 1:9-11 (NIV)

The apostle Paul was a pastor, teacher, missionary, writer of Scripture and now a prisoner for Jesus Christ. That was a remarkable career for anyone to have in any era.

We marvel that he does not ask his converts to pray for his release from prison so that he can more effectively, and to much greater audiences, preach the Gospel.

What is important to Paul is not so much his own situation but the spiritual progress of those Christians to whom he writes. We can learn a lesson here concerning our own suffering. Ask yourself, “Is my family seeing the grace of God in my life? Are those for whom I have a spiritual responsibility encouraged in their faith by how I submit to the will of God for me?”

No one can tell Paul that he should pray for deliverance from his present life threatening situation. Hear what Paul says about his suffering and learn why he chooses to stay under the horrible conditions and likely death.

Philippians 1:12-14 (NIV)

“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,
that what has happened to me
has actually served to advance the gospel.
As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard
and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.
And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters
have become confident in the Lord
and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.”

So Paul is clearly not wishing to free himself from the problem he faces. He sees benefits to others that could only come from his personal suffering. In modern Christianity today all we want is to escape the grief that comes upon us in life. We ignore what is happening around us because of our difficult circumstances.

When Dr. James Boyce, minister of the great Tenth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia was diagnosed with a terminal cancer some years ago, he calmly accepted his situation. He was a glorious witness to the amazing grace of God for the next couple of months until he went to be with Jesus.

Look again at the situation around you and try to see if anyone is witnessing your calm manner in adversity. Your submission to the Lord will be a better witness than any words you could ever say about God’s grace or the worth of following Christ.

In speaking of the “storms of life” John Newton penned the following words.

Be gone unbelief my Saviour is near
and for my relief will shortly appear
By faith let me wrestle and He will perform,
with Christ in the vessel I smile at the storm.

Soon enough your problems will be gone. Your Saviour shall bring the needed relief in His time. What do you want? Is the glory of God more important to you than relief from your temporary problem? How will you view today from the vantage point of heaven? Live for Jesus today and accept His needed help for the journey until the eternal day dawns and all sorrows fade into the distant past.

Who Started It anyway?

“Being confident of this very thing that He
Who began a good work in you
will carry it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Philippians 1:6

There are several views on how our salvation originated. I find most comfort in the view that makes salvation to be a work of God from beginning to end. Paul states in Ephesians 1:4 that God chose a people for Himself before He uttered a creative word. So our salvation began in eternity.

Then as we read of the conversion experiences of people in the Scriptures we see that the Bible portrays God as the One Who pursues, finds, and brings a people to Himself. Lydia’s example in Acts 16:14 (NIV)

“One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth.
She was a worshiper of God.
The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.”

We often pray that the Lord would open blind eyes to see the truth in Jesus, or we ask God to cause deaf ears to hear. Such prayers recognize that God is needed to begin the work of salvation in the sinners’ hearts.

Paul again puts it so clearly in Romans 3:11 (NIV)

“…there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.”

So when we see someone seeking the Lord we can say that God has begun a good work in the seeker.

We can then say that God, Who began the work, will continue it until the day of Jesus Christ. Such truth is an enormous comfort to the Christian who is struggling with some sin that they cannot shake off. God is going to bring you through to victory. You cannot fall short of a full salvation.

The amazing truth in Romans 8:1-2 (NIV) makes it clear that the law of God can never bring a person in Christ back under condemnation.

there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit
who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

Those whom God has freed from the condemnation of the law can never be subject again to the law of God that says (Ezekiel 18:3),

“The soul that sins shall die.”

While the law of God shows a person in Christ that they have committed this sin or that, the law is silenced forever concerning condemnation. For the believer, the law speaks an instructive word but no longer a word of death.

Can your heart be lifted by this truth Christian? You have struggled to be free from some sin or other and you must continue to work toward victory because God is at work in you (Philippians 2:13). You shall prevail sooner or later.

Turn again in hope to the Lord. Remind him that it was He Who began the good work in you. Tell Him that you require and desire the strength to overcome the sin that dogs your heels. He will hear and come to provide you with all that is needed. The victory shall come and you shall soon rejoice in the strength of the Lord.